I'll keep this post short and let the video do the talking.
In early 1998, some friends asked me to join them in this thing called the Boston to New York AIDS Ride. It would involve getting on a bike, pedaling for 260+ miles over 3 days, and raising a gargantuan $1,800 to benefit AIDS charities. At that point in my life, I had never raised money for a cause, I had not been on a bike since pre-driver's license, and I most certainly had never participated in a large-scale event with a predominantly gay and lesbian population.
The ride changed me. It taught me that I could undertake physical challenges never thought possible; that epic undertakings have the power to galvanize tremendous support for causes; and that diversity is something to be embraced, not feared. It also introduced me to cycling. This single event, which happened on one amazing three-day weekend in September '98 did all of this for me. Major ripples in the pond of my life, which have continued to grow -- not diminish -- from their point of origin.
The man responsible for this ride was Dan Pallotta, founder of Pallotta TeamWorks, and innovator of the multiday AIDSRides and Breast Cancer 3-Days. In 2002, after raising unprecedented amounts of money for causes, Dan's company went out of business. His sponsors abandoned him and he was vilified by the media for being an unethical leader. His story is outlined in great detail in news articles, in his book Uncharitable, and in the TED talk featured above. In my heart, I knew Dan had been wronged, but I was unable to articulate why. Now, I don't have to because this fantastic TED talk -- one of the best I've seen -- does it succinctly and powerfully.
In 2007, I had the opportunity to take Dan out for lunch in Boston. I told him "thank you for changing my life."